A shady beach, on the east coast of Florida? No. But in Palm Coast you can go, in six seconds, from needing a flashlight to make your way through the forest, to fumbling in the white hot sun for your Ray Bans.
Palm Coast isn’t a region, it’s a town. I know – it sounds like an area, like the Panhandle, or the Keys. I was equally perplexed with Summer Haven, awarded (by me) The Best Beach Town Name Ever, and it’s not even a town. This is Florida, though, where we kind of do what we want, even if it does land us in the news a lot, and sometimes jail.
Palm Coast was incorporated in 1999, making it one of Florida’s newest towns. I’m thinking all the best town names were taken by then; after coming up with Okahumpka, Picnic, Fluffy Landing, Mayo and Festus, the name-giver committee just said frick it, how about Palm Coast?
There are 125+ miles of connecting trails for walking and bicycling – including trails designated as part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail – and 70 miles of saltwater and freshwater canals and the Intracoastal Waterway for fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. The ancient, towering live oaks and pines inspire awe, and provide a welcome change from the sun drenched highways we’re used to in Florida. Marshlands, estuaries, and nature preserves offer hours of fun for nature lovers, and Palm Coast is also a well known golfer’s paradise.
But as you know we’re always looking to park it and relax, and we found our kind of euphoric laziness in Palm Coast. This is what we’re talkin’ about. (Though my kids tell me no one says that anymore.)
A beautiful uncrowded beach with free parking, and later a funky fun restaurant with live music and incidentally great food (the mood and the music are at the top of our must-haves, I’m not going to lie.)
(People do still say “I’m not going to lie,” and though I just said it, I’m sick of hearing it. Also “adorbs” and “cray cray,” which you should NEVER say unless you’re a hip grandmother, or you’re twelve.)
And then of course after all that fun in the sun and a little too much elbow bending at the beach bar, we love to be able to amble our way to a cozy bungalow or mom-and-pop motel that is not only affordable, but clean, and run by people who love their job and love having us even though they don’t know I’m going to write about them later!
If we can’t find all of this within walking distance, we either drag along our one friend who doesn’t drink, or we take the bus or a cab, or poor CH has to abstain.
Our visit to Palm Coast gave us The Beach, The Bar, and The Bungalow all within biking distance. You can walk, if you want…. but the constant pops of sun and shade and sun and shade brought on a languorousness that didn’t allow us to walk places.
- PARK/WALK: Free parking and an easy, short walk to the beach.
- GO/RINSE: Public restrooms and showers.
- CROWD FACTOR: This beach access is right next to a very large resort, Hammock Beach Resort, so although the beach wasn’t crowded at all when we were there, it may be at peak times.
- GUARDS: No.
- IMBIBE: Yes you may.
- BEST FRIEND: Dogs are allowed, on a leash. A local told us that a few miles north, at Mala Compra Beach, dogs roam off-leash. (Mala Compra means “bad bargain,” but no one is sure why. I think it’s a good bargain if Buddy can run around without his leash!)
- WE LOVE: The cinnamon colored sand, and the reggae music drifting from the resort’s swimming pool.
15224 North Oceanshore Blvd.
- VIBE: Rustic, relaxed, beachy. A lively crowd was there the night we went.
- ARRIVE: Decent sized parking lot under the huge trees.
- SIT: Inside, on the back porch, or outside at picnic tables.
- SIP: Happy Hour every day from 3 – 6 p.m.
- NOSH: The seafood gumbo and the shrimp and grits were outstanding. The menu is varied and they are known for their delicious burgers.
- LISTEN: Live music often, call to find out when; at the time of this posting the schedule wasn’t on their website. 386-446-4337.
- WE LOVE: The shacky atmosphere and the great service.
5454 North Oceanshore Blvd.
- VIBE: Lodge-y, shaded, quiet, old-timey.
- WALK: We didn’t attempt to walk to The Beach or The Bar, but there are bikes on site you can rent, and Publix is within walking distance across the street. The property has a beautiful path through the woods to their own tiny and lovely beach on the river.
- DECOR: Soothingly neutral, updated. We stayed in the older section, from the 1930’s, where the walls are made of historic coquina rock.
- SLEEP: The bed was comfortable and the sheets felt luxurious. We only had 3 pillows; I’m sure we could have gotten more but didn’t ask.
- EXTRAS: Small but efficient kitchenette; ask ahead for utensils and such if you plan to cook there. The water pressure in the shower was AMAZING – hang onto the towel bar or you’ll be catapulted downriver (just kidding… sort of.) The swimming pool is large and shaded by palm trees.
- RATES: $69 on the weekends for the original style villas, $59 during the week.
- WE LOVE: The vintage feel and the peacefulness. The large bedroom and updated bathroom, and the beautiful grounds for exploring. It had been years since I’d taken a walk through the woods.
There are some cute shops and other good restaurants in the area:
By now you all must think that when our work week is in the rear view, all we want to do is sit around. Either basking on a beach chair, drink in hand, or loafing at a beach bar, drink in hand, or flat out passed out somewhere as long as the sheets feel nice. And admittedly, you would be right in a way. But we both work really hard at our jobs, and most weekends CH is wielding noisy dangerous hand tools and I’m hacking away so vigorously at our yard overgrowth that I burst vessels in my eyeballs. Or we’re painting, building, nailing, cooking, cleaning up dog pee and squirrel poop.
Look at me getting all defensive at no one. I’m just saying (I know I know! I shouldn’t be saying that either!) that I’m sure you all work as hard as we do, and because of that we ALL deserve to choose our own ways to strike the right balance, between sometimes mind-numbing workaday life, and the sheer and simple joys we find trawling around on our off time, with friends and family (drinks in hand.)
Palm Coast was the perfect balm on our spirits the weekend we experienced its shady and sunny peace. Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches motto is “Escape… on the quiet side of Florida.” We did just that. Now it’s your turn.
Palm Coast is on Florida’s east coast, 25 miles south of St. Augustine and 30 miles north of Daytona Beach.